X-Box 360: First Impressions 
2008.02.27 02:52 - Entertainment, Microcode, Toys, Actual Toys
The 360, like the Wii, has a mildly annoying and slightly cumbersome dashboard interface that allows access to the system's online service regardless of the individual game's intentions. This is both cool, because it lets me message or talk to, say, Pikafoop while playing Lost Odyssey, and mildly depressing, because it reminds me again that game consoles are fast becoming computers for the terminally dim, instead of being devices that play games. Otherwise, the experience is satisfactory, except that anything that removes wires from my life costs an arm and leg, sometimes without obvious cause0

So far, I've purchased three games: Gears of War, Halo 3, and Lost Odyssey.

Lost Odyssey is, basically, Final Fantasy, less Squeenix. The music is by Nobuo Uematsu, the story is by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the cinematics are endless, and we mostly seem to be a chocobo and a moogle shy of a game from the FF oeuvre. Well, and an angsty young adult of gender-ambiguous appearance for a protagonist. Our protagonist is instead an angsty adult appearing to be roughly middle-aged and at least looks like a man, if an awfully lean one.
Uematsu's music is like coming home again in an RPG. Most of the game is like that, actually, which makes sense given that the FF series are pretty much all the console-based RPGs I played in the 1990s. Intriguingly, all the cinematics appear to be rendered in-engine, often seamlessly.
It took something like twenty minutes to get to the opening credits, and, in the following hour and a half, I have seen no combat at all. Also, I'm going to be really sick of checking every barrel, trashcan, pylon, wardrobe, poster and etc. for items by the time this game is done. The constant cinematics are, so far, distracting and cause some loading problems.
The hats are very tall. Very tall indeed.
On the one hand, it's nice to tread old ground now and then, and the indications thus far are that the game will be fairly traditional in many ways, including the turn-based combat. This is potentially a problem, given that the FF games were getting very, very stale (to me, at least). So far, cautiously optimistic, if I ever get out of the opening and on with the story.

Halo 3 is what it is. It's primary selling point for me is the ability to include multiple players in co-op play. From the couple of hours spent with the co-op this evening, the gameplay seems a bit pedestrian, and the control scheme exhibits everything I dislike about FPS games on consoles. None of this really surprises me: I've played other console shooters and I played the first Halo on the PC. It just seems disappointing that the premier FPS still exhibits the sort of gameplay that was disappointing me seven years ago.

Gears of War is a game I really, really should hate. The story is the sort of thing that seems to be written to appeal to teenage boys, following a Bad-Ass protagonist who Broke All The Rules, was Kept Down By The Man, but is Back, And This Time It's Personal as he and his Motley Crew must Succeed Against All Odds. It's gritty and dark, which, like bloom and the color brown (also in evidence), lets you know that it's Real. The weapons seems to be a crapshoot of fairly generic FPS weapons1 mixed in the with the odd bit of inspiration.2 The most generic stuff looks suspiciously like a real-world gun with a zillion pounds of nonsense greeblies tacked on the outside3. However, the game's controls are pretty solid, the cover system works pretty well, and the co-op is great fun. The bad news is that the game only allows one co-op player. Although you will almost always have a squad of four in the game, it looks as though storyline concerns mean that half your squad will be on rotation throughout the course of the game. Other bad bits? Well, aside from everything I made light of, the color palette really looks as though it were stolen from Quake. This seems all to be made up for with the solid gameplay, but! consult the manual for the controls. The tutorial seems to have glossed over aiming.

On the whole, it's positive. Gears is looking (to me) to be better than I expected, Halo 3 is meeting expectations, and Lost Odyssey seems to have a lot of potential.

0. I'm still not sure what's in the wireless headset that justifies paying $60 for something that appears to identical to either a bluetooth headset or a wireless phone without the featureset of either one, or why wireless ethernet continues to be an optional add-on.
1. This is the assault rifle, and the pistol, and the shotgun, and the other assault rifle, and ...
2. Chainsaw bayonet, and grenades on chains. Sure, okay. It's at least different.
3. I find the pistol actually offensive in its absurdity, as it possesses lines that appear to have been cribbed from the pistol used by Deckard in Blade Runner, but without any hint that the person who put the model together knew what a real gun should or did look like. The result is a 'snub' pistol that looks to be the size of a hamhock. Probably, we should believe it is chambered in something extremely manly and also impractical, like .50AE. Why any military would issue this thing as a standard sidearm, I can't figure. The actual sidearm of the future will probably look a lot like a Glock: blocky, ugly, and possessing roughly five moving parts.

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&^*%$#! Ow! 
2008.02.14 19:11 - Guns, Miscellanea
The fancy wood grips and steel guide rod I ordered for my CZ showed up today. The grips were a piece of cake, and look really nice. They're also only slightly bulkier than the rubber grips that came with gun. I'm very pleased.

As to the steel guide rod ... well, an hour and a half, a blood blister, some cursing, and an attempt at asking a question at a dedicated web forum later, the rod's in. As it turns out, it should just fit, but I had to resort to using a rubber mallet. I'll regret that when it comes time to clean the gun, I can guarantee you.

This is a small reminder that captured recoil springs are superior to (or, at least, far less a pain in the butt than) uncaptured springs.

[Update: Got the guide rod back out on Sunday. Took some more rubber mallet, but it looks as though nothing is damaged save pride, and the butt-ugly finish on the barrel. For the moment, I've stuck the plastic guide rod back in, which will work, but is not as swoovy.]
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Dashed Hopes 
2008.02.14 16:14 - Entertainment, Comics, Microcode
Q: Is it can be KotOR 3?

A: NO.

... I'll be honest, the KotOR games, even as shoddily unfinished as KotOR 2 is (even after all this time--hurry the heck up, guys!), were the best Star Wars movies I've had since the special edition was in the theaters.

... I think I'm going to see what I can find for KotOR mods when I get home. I have some time off next week and the week after that I isn't completely allocated, and it's been quite a while since I stayed up all night to play through KotOR 1.

FWIW, I like the KotOR comics Dark Horse is publishing quite a bit, as well. They aren't as "mature" as the Legacy series that's out, but I find them a great deal more fun, which I like in my entertainment.

[Addendum: Credit where it's due: both links concerning the EA press release came from TheForce.Net.]
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One Stop Shopping 
2008.02.11 11:29 - Guns, Zombie Preparedness
Just in case.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that one's a joke, but I doubt the guys at FBMG would turn down your money if you wanted it. That said, the shotgun loadout's not a bad idea for a home defense kit, though you obviously don't need the camo, body armor, night vision, etc. in that case. Unless you are seriously concerned about an impending zombie outbreak. (If you're really concerned about needing a shotgun for survival or defense emergencies, you might find this appropriate.)

In which case, I'm sure you already have a guide book.
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Here's An Obscure Gun 
2008.02.08 15:00 - Guns
Scroll about halfway down, to the ugly-looking chromed revolver with the funny marks on its cylinder.

What you're looking at is a rare bit of turn-of-the-century gun technology: the Union Automatic Revolver. I really don't know much about the gun, except that it's an autorevolver produced about the same time as the Webley-Fosbery of Zardoz 'fame'.0 I found a mention of it on an ugly Tripod page about the Fosbery part of the Webley-Fosbery, but hadn't seen anything else at all until this afternoon, when I stumbled across the page above, and a closed auction at GunsAmerica.

It's interesting to note that there are, apparently, a few surviving examples of the Union Automatic floating around, and that it's a really homely critter.

0. Actually, for some better and more detailed information on the Webley, you can try the Wikipedia entry, and this article. The Webley-Fosbery also gets a significant mention in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, and in the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name. I haven't seen or read any of those, though.

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